Let Us Count the Ways…
Traditionally, games focus on one of two central motivations: either the world needs saving, or you have to rescue your love from the clutches of Evil. And yes, there are many times when the two are interwoven into the same goal, but you get our point. It’s rare that a game takes a different approach to drive the player onward.
Today, instead of rallying against the standard, we celebrate the games that have taken this motif and presented it so masterfully as to leave our worlds forever affected; let us recognize the cream of the crop when it comes to portraying a believable romantic relationship between two game characters that we can actually care about. It’s all teddy bears and puppy dogs in this edition of our Top 5.
[Ed. To prevent unnecessarily fluffing our lists with less-than-worthy entries, some lists may in the future contain less than five games.]
* * * *
5. Baldur’s Gate 2 – Player Character & Jaheira
4. Alpha Protocol – Michael Thornton & Everyone
3. Final Fantasy VII – Cloud Strife & Tifa Lockhart
2. Knights of the Old Republic – Revan & Bastila
1. Mass Effect 2 – Commander Shepard & Subject Zero
Revan and Bastila make the list simply for being a well-written romance in Star Wars media. Something which, the films themselves would have you believe, is just impossible. As for Mass Effect 2, as much as I like Tali’s personality and voice/accent-wise…Jack was the most interesting romance. It’s definitely the most initially hostile relationship you can undertake, but taking the time to learn about her and crack the hard exterior feels rewarding.
5. Dead Space 2: Isaac & Nicole
It’s definitely not a romance, but the moment when Isaac tries to finally forgive Nicole for everything was a pretty poignant moment for the series so far. Their relationship has been destroyed but still lingers on, and the memory of Nicole pretty much destroys Isaac for most of the two games until he forgives her towards the end of the game. It’s just too bad she responds by trying to eat his brain.
4. Grand Theft Auto IV: Niko Bellic & Kate McReary
While this isn’t a “typical” romance either (seeing as it’s a GTA game), for me, there was a point where I started to kind of care about Kate, at least a little bit. But when Dimitri kills her? I was pissed. I caught myself shouting BRING IT ON DIMITRI at the screen. It was weird caring about Niko’s love interest, but they wrote the two together well, and I think it belongs on this list.
3. Uncharted 2: Nathan Drake & Chloe Frazer
Granted, I haven’t had time to finish Uncharted 3 yet, but as far as Uncharted 2 goes, I’d much rather see Drake with Chloe than Elena. Elena is this “Hey we shouldn’t do this, this is wrong, let me tell you how much this is wrong, oh hell I’ll do it anyway” character that bores me. Not to mention, Drake is a murderer and a thief, and Chloe is a murderer and a thief. They seem to have a mutual understanding that Elena “rolls eyes does it anyway” Fisher doesn’t.
2. Valkyria Chronicles: Welkin Gunther & Alicia Melchiott
I haven’t finished this game yet, but I already care a lot about the developing romance between these two characters. I don’t often like this “type” of female character, but I find Alicia a bit charming, and an interesting (if typical) fit to compare with Welkin. I know how it’s going to play out, but it’s still a bit fun to watch.
1. Final Fantasy X – Tidus & Yuna
Tidus can be stupid, but I seem to be the only one on the planet who never found him annoying. His relationship with Yuna was actually one of my favorite “romances” in games, because I found it to be a great and compelling romance and a central part of the entire game, but it’s also one of the only real “romances” on this list, save for Valkyria Chronicles. One needs to only bring up Seymour and Yuna in the same conversation and watch what happens. This game is probably on the short list of the best romances in modern gaming, which we might save for another time.
4. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – Monkey & Trip
Maybe it’s the uncanny facial animation in this game; when Monkey or Trip communicate, their faces often say more with a look or a subtle widening of the eyes than do their words. By the time the jealous third wheel Pigsy gets into the story, with his lumbering attempts to sweep Trip off her feet, you just find yourself rooting for these two. Plus, Monkey having to constantly save his damsel from distress just screams romance.
3. Final Fantasy VII – Cloud & Aeris
I know that the story holds somewhat of a romantic interest between Cloud and Tifa, and that, through some odd Freudian slip, Cloud takes on the persona of Zack, Aeris’ old boyfriend. But starting the moment Cloud crashed through the ceiling of the church straight into Aeris’ flower bed, all the way to the final moments of Advent Children, there is just a sad romance that never quite happened between these two.
2. Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers – Gabriel & Malia
Although he is a womanizer, and throughout the entire series has a much deeper relationship with his assistant Grace than he’d probably care to admit, it was Gabriel Knight’s short-lived romance with Malia Gedde in the original game that stuck with me the most. Due, perhaps, to the fact that she was his first “true love”, and because of the tragic fate of their doomed Romeo and Juliet relationship, this one beat out his long-standing affection for Grace.
1. To the Moon – Johnny & River
Perhaps the most surprising game to me personally this year, To the Moon covers some romantic ground not found too often. For one, it beautifully tells the story of how a romance can endure even past the boundaries of life and death, and that some people are simply destined to be together. For another, it deals with love through the eyes of an elderly man; whereas most games treat love as something only experienced by adolescents and young adults, Freebird Games’ adventure shows that a story equally as deep, and much more poignant, can be told with the elderly.
Share Your Thoughts: What about you? Which gaming romances have made your heart beat quicker and given you sweaty palms, rooting for your couple to end up together? Come on, show us your softer side – you know you want to…